Poetry Tuesday: The White Stallion

Abu I-Salt Umayyah (1067-1134)

Pale as the morning star
in the hour of sunrise
he advances proudly,
caparisoned with a saddle of gold.

One who saw him going with me
into battle, envied me and said:
“Who bridled Dawn with the Pleiades?
Who saddled lightning with the half moon?”


Travel Thursday: A Night in Vienna

Watching a horse show, especially the most famous horse show in the world, was one thing, but watching their rehearsal wasn’t as big a deal, no matter how hard she sold it.
Everyone kept telling me how privileged I was to be able to watch this, so often that I had to struggle to keep from telling them to stuff a sock in it. Luckily the thought of dinner with the horse babe kept me quiet, knowing she’d blow me off if I caused a scene in this stuffiest of all stuffy places.
Finally it was over, and though she’d changed out of her jodhpurs she didn’t look any less hot for it. Dinner was quick and uneventful, and since it was spring it was not a very cold night, so she suggested we go for a walk downtown.
Though I’d been in Vienna many times–it was either my second or third favorite city in the world, depending on time of year–this was her town, so I allowed her to lead the way along the Ringstrasse, the large and long boulevard that circled the town under different guises. In front of us now was the Opera House, but we turned our backs to it and walked the other way, chuckling as I recalled the news story of marijuana growing in the street dividers. . .
Conversation was held to a minimum as we walked hand in hand, trying not to look out of place among the crowd, which was dressed a lot more formally, probably on the way to said opera house. When we did speak, it was the surroundings which dominated the topics; passing the statue of Goethe, for instance, got us into a light-hearted discussion about Faust and his improbable story, and of course I had to tell her how many ships her face had launched, even if that was by a different author. Seeing the Burg Garten led to commentary about the flowers we could see through the gates. Then the statue of Mozart came into view, and that dominated the talk for a while.
Around us the window-shopping crowds swarmed in all possible directions, with gypsy musicians, clowns, and other street performers here and there; I managed to guide her away from the flame-throwing jugglers, since I could see they weren’t very good. Eventually we were once again walking by the Imperial Palace, where the riding school was located, when we saw Mozart coming toward us. Considering all we’d seen as we strolled the streets, it wasn’t much of a surprise, but then he stopped to chat for a while, asking about our favorite songs of his. Buying into the premise that this really was Mozart, I had some fun making him both surprised and angry at some of my choices, saying that some of his best stuff was left out of my repertoire.
But finally I’d had enough of humoring this lunatic, so I told him that he could have done a much better job on both the opening of the third act in The Barber of Seville and the overture of The Magic Flute. Mozart was so aghast that we managed to escape before he recovered.
I found her giggling uncontrollably, allowing me to throw her a “What?” in an injured tone.
“You dare presume to tell the great Mozart how to write music?”
“Someone has to. I’ll bet I can beat him at billards too.”
From there we passed by the rest of the Palace, the Museums, Parliament, City Hall, and the National Theater until I suddenly stopped in my tracks at the sight in front of me. “That’s funny; I thought I was in Vienna, not Athens.”
She merely smirked as I looked around in every direction, feeling the cold and somewhat cleaner air of Vienna rather than Athens. But still, there was no denying there was a Greek temple in front of us.
Just to rub it in she walked up to it and read the inscription. “Temple of Theseus, built in 1823. Every detail exact as the original in Athens.”
Giving her the full ham, I let out a loud sigh of relief. “For a moment I thought we’d walked through a hole in time and space or something like that.”
Smile. “You’ve been watching too much Star Trek.”
I made her regret that by discussing every episode I could remember for the next hour. . .


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dream, part 5

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was the only one in the world good enough to be compared to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which basically meant they only taught rich people and gave shows once in a while. With the place being next to the Palace, it didn’t take us long to walk there, even in her high heels, which she admitted she had to get used to walking in every time, let alone dancing in.
“But I’m fine now!” she giggled, and didn’t seem bothered when I didn’t say “Yes you are!”
Instead I went with, “Not after that last drink you’re not. And of course I did hear what that woman said to you, and more importantly what you said to her.”
I didn’t think she’d call me on that, for then I’d have to admit I was eavesdropping, but she simply blushed and hung her head, partly in shame and partly so I couldn’t see her grinning.
Stopping for a moment, I put my hand over her mouth; she fell obligingly silent, always being a good girl, as well as amused. “Wanna be a famous prima dona opera singer?” I whispered.
“Not especially,” she replied with a shrug.
“Do it anyway, all attitude. . . don’t say anything!”
Once there, I never broke stride as I gave the guard at the entrance a terse nod, holding the door open for her. She strode haughtily through it, pretending not to look at the suddenly-gasping guard. Enjoy it, baby, she thought, but immediately reverted to nice country girl and gave him a friendly “Buenas noches.”
“Good thing you wore those boots,” I muttered once we were inside, refusing to explain that, instead scolding, “I told you not to talk!”
She grinned, blushing. “Forgot. But why? What’s going on?”
“This is a show for special invited guests.” I put his arm around her shoulders and steered her, knowing she’d never remember which way to go. “Maybe we can get you off on mental incompetence.”
She chuckled and hugged me. “Afraid to admit it, but when I’m around horses, it’s usually true.”
“Don’t blame the horses.”
As I’d expected, soon enough someone challenged our right to be there, this one a bureaucratic jerk with a clipboard. “I do not know you.”
“You really need to get out more,” I smirked superiorly. “Everyone here recognizes the most famous actress in the world.”
“She is not on my list,” came the repeat monotone.
“Contact the people who actually know what’s going on,” I told the man sternly. “Then we’ll be more than happy to accept your apology.” I turned to her. “Let’s go, madame.”
She managed to hold the haughty this time until we were far away from the man– doing a damn good acting job, if I do say so myself!–before finally managing to look at me in something close to aghastment. “You need to give me acting lessons, mister!”
Making no reply to that other than a grin, I led her into the actual arena and found us some good seats. Reading from the flyer I’d been given, I translated, “A horseback procession celebrating the royal stud farm and the sixteenth century crossing of two Andalusian breeds, which gave rise to the superb horses of today.”
“Howz that different from what we saw at the fair?” she managed a good whine, wishing she could take the boots off for a few minutes.
“Top of the line horseflesh merchandise. Plus we get to sit.”
“Oh good!” She looked around and decided the people reminded her of those at Hollywood parties. “Not the actors, the behind the scenes movers and shakers. The money men and their trophy wives.” Then she grinned and waited for me to say something about her being perfect for that role.
Instead I went philosophical with, “Money can make men–and limber women–do strange things.”
“Limber, huh?” She had to keep herself from rushing into another fantasy, killed the thought with a Rush song. “Big money pulls a million strings.”
“Big money draws the flies.”
Grinning like a mean little kid, she continued the lyrics. “Big money leaves a mighty wake.”
“Big money leaves a bruise.”
“It’s the power and the glory.”
“It’s a war in paradise.”
“A Cinderella story.”
“On a tumble of the dice.”
She made a face. “We already did that part!”
The show started, and she thought of nothing else as she watched the horsies with a fascination that even took the self-proclaimed love of her life out of her brain. Luckily nothing happened to distract her from her happy place; she even gave what sounded like a sexual sigh of satisfaction when it was all over. Still clad in her tight green dress and honey-blonde hair up, plus the stilettos, she towered over most of the men in the post-show drinks room, either embarrassing or merely intimidating them.
Until she completely blew the mood–so to speak–by suddenly asking, “How do you say cucumber in Spanish?”
“Thank you.”
Not about to ask, I turned my attention, along with everyone else in the room, to a little stage in the corner, where two men dressed in centuries-old clothes began giving a fencing performance, unless it was a real duel over a girl or something.
As she watched the thrust and parry–and giggled to herself at the sexual connotations she couldn’t seem to stop thinking of–the younger of the guys was cut on the arm and immediately hustled away by his opponent, which basically told everyone the thing was indeed staged and dropped some of the enjoyment off the whole spectacle.
“Well, he’s dead,” Katarina announced cheerfully.
“Just a little scratch,” the woman next to her argued scornfully.
“A little poison on the sword and he’s done for.” She turned to glare at the woman. “Ever heard of Hamlet?”
Trying not to grin, I patted her ass gently. She, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide her smile. Now feeling completely relaxed, she started working the room, searching out any conversations in English. She’d never considered herself a brilliant conversationalist, but she knew herself to be a good listener, lively and quick to both sympathy and laughter, and with these qualities–added to her great beauty–no girl could go wrong.
So her mom told her, anyway. . .
Finally tired of meeting people she’d never meet again, she gave me a look that he interpreted quickly and easily. “I think it’s over here,” I smirked, and when she realized my cover for her escape was the old watercloset excuse, she clucked and scolded me like a maiden aunt, at least until we were out of earshot.
Instead I led her to a quiet balcony; she would not have been the least surprised if I’d either been here before or had scoped out the place while she was working the room. Wait, didn’t he say he always looks for the emergency exits? Glad he notices other things too!
Unable to stop herself, she looked over the railing and saw a gentle slope about ten feet down, an easy jump in a hurry, even in heels. “Ah,” she grinned. “You found this during your security explorations, didn’t you?”
“No idea what you mean, supposed-romantic lady.”
“Yeah, sure.”
I smirked evilly, as if to say, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Her only recourse was to douse me with a smile, showing every one of her perfect teeth.
But then she looked out past her little green escape hill, at the sight of the barns/ warehouses/whatever they were, and instinctively wrinkled her nose. “This place is butt-ugly!”
“You’ve never seen your butt, have ya?”
She winked. “Waiting for you to develop the photos.”
“Well, trust me, it’s as beautiful as the rest of ya.”
“Golly golly gosh!”
“Mmmm, I love your innocent character.”
“Knew ya would,” came the un-innocent smirk. “Plan on ravaging me?”
“Not that first time, no, but if you want to play that one day, don’t use your lousy German accent.”
Ignoring all the connotations that didn’t have to do with her acting, she huffed, “I can do a great German accent!”
“That was Russian.”
“Damn! It’s harder than I thought. Show me.”
“Why not?” That wasn’t whiny at all, right?
“I can’t be an actor,” he sighed. “Too exhausting.”
She looked smug, for some reason. “As true as that is, I have faith in you. Show me you agree by kissing me.”
“Not here.”
“So people see us, so what?”
“That would embarrass me.”
She snuggled closer. “I love it! Big man shy about kissing in public! You blush every time, it’s so cute! You’re blushing right now! It makes you appealing, you know.”
I thought about saying “I know,” instead growled at her, a mock carnivore rumble, and she squealed and hid her face in my chest. After a moment she pulled back and propped herself up with her chin on my shoulder to look at me, tracing the line of my nose, then my lips, with one finger. She obviously wasn’t the least bit embarrassed about anyone seeing us
“See how simple it is?” she whispered.
“That’s because you’ve done it so often in movies you can’t tell this is reality.”
“This isn’t reality,” she sighed. “This is paradise. . .”
On the other side of the corridor from the balcony we could look down at the ballroom, if that was indeed what it was called here. Smiling, I pointed to a man in a green tuxedo, whom she had seen and avoided like a plague. In fact, she shuddered as she asked, “Ever heard of a song called Marche funèbre d’une marionette? Classical composers were just as weird as today’s, if they wrote a funeral march for a puppet.”
“Ever see the Hitchcock TV show?”
“Remember the theme? That’s it.”
“That weird little march? Very cool! Really set the tone for the weirdness it preceded.”
For some reason she leaned over and kissed me tenderly on the cheek. . . only to be startled out of her mood at the shout of “Bella Americana!” from what sounded like more than one love starved/drunk guy. And indeed it was a crowd of them, scaring her. But at least they sound fun-loving rather than dangerous.
She did her best to be Hollywood-gracious, even signing autographs, until finally someone noticed how uncomfortable she looked under her façade of cheeriness. “You are indeed a special lady. Any time you need help. . . anything,” the guy added with a last glance at me.
She grinned and remarked, “All I ask is that you treat me no differently than you would the Queen.”
Which seems like the perfect place to end it. . .


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 3

Finally, when she seemed to be almost lifelike again, I asked if she minded wandering around the horsies alone. “Gotta develop these shots and make a poster for this guy, otherwise I might have to buy the horse.”
“Would that be so bad?” she teased, but waved me away imperiously. Just for that, I grumbled to myself, I wouldn’t bring her any chocolate.
To her surprise, she found herself glad to be without me for a while, so she said later, if only guys would stop hitting on her. Luckily she had other thoughts and sights to deal with, like Hey, a miniature appaloosa! Squeal! I want one!

She might have told me what she did for those couple of hours, but I was too bored to care, since I was still enjoying her freakout when I’d come back and told her, “Hey lady, wanna buy a burro?”
Gasping in surprise at the voice coming seemingly from inside her ear, she turned right into my grinning face. “What are you doing here?” came her rather pathetic yelp.
“Anything I want.”
“But you’re back so quick!”
“I came as quickly as I. . . felt I had to.”
She snorted on that, but chuckled too. “Did they really develop them that fast?”
Shrug. “Took me the whole time just to find a place.” Smiling, I bent my neck so the side of my head would just touch hers. Feeling it, she leaned against me to reciprocate, without banging skulls. . . too hard. Maybe it’ll become our signature move, she chortled internally.
“Did you know there’s a musical group called Palomino Duck?”
She giggled prettily, the way she would when she wanted something given to her as a gift. “I’d pay to see one of those waddle by right now.”
Luckily I didn’t have anything to give her at the moment, but it was good to know she had that setting, and I could recognize it. “You are some crazy chick.”
“That’s why you love me,” she yawned.
“Wow, I’m pathetic.”
Laughing heartily, she hugged me from behind, then suddenly chortled, “All that glitters is not gold.”
“Nor iron bars a cage!. . . sorry, wrong one.”
“That’s okay,” she laughed, “as long as it was poetry and not a song lyric.”
“When you can fall for chains of silver, you can fall for chains of gold.”
“Now that’s a song! And I totally agree with it, since I’ve never fallen for it.”
“Not yet, anyway. . .”
She ignored that, instead asking, “Hungry yet?”
“Nope,” came my automatic response, but I still reached into his backpack. “Emergency rations,” I explained as I pulled out the pack of gummies.
“There are a bunch of snack places, you know.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, “but that’s clear over there–” She pointed. “–and I’d rather stick with the horsies for now.”

As always, she allowed herself to be led by my whim, and now had to concentrate as we took a small flight of steps into what. . . oh lord, is this a bullring?
As usual, I was able to read her thoughts. “It’s all horses this weekend.”
She squeezed my hand, knowing she should have trusted me, but glad she hadn’t said anything aloud.
Another parade was going on, though this was more than just horsies walking down the boulevard. Some did tricks, others the fancy dancing more commonly known as dressage, and other figured they were just beautiful enough to be admired for their looks. . . or rather their owners did.
I didn’t care that much about equine ego, but there was an amazing young Andalucían I couldn’t take my eyes off. . . more specifically, the horse’s ass. It was young enough to still be rather gray all over, but its tail had been braided into a delicious white braid that reminded me of a certain gorgeous softball player I’d shot many times. And the woman riding it was draped in a red and white flamenco dress, the tail of which framed the braid so perfectly. . .
I glanced over; she was watching the horse with wide-eyed absorption, so I decided not to say anything. She’d see the pictures soon enough anyway.
To my surprise, but also my delight, I found myself enjoying her reactions as much as the show. While I had a long lens on the camera to catch every tiny nuance of a passing horsie, I also had a tiny digital similar to hers, useful for capturing her delight as she cheered and gasped next to me. She watched the show with avid fascination, squinting in the dark of the shadows and clapping at all the right moments, appreciative of every flower and every horse, playing the perfect tourist and amateur horsewoman.
“Nice mules,” she even said once, but the highlight, or one of them, had to be when the most beautiful stallion–and this horse knew it, ego-wise–pranced across the dirt, quickly followed by an almost-identical mare.
“They’re probably brother and sister,” she murmured, “but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were a couple?”
I watched the color rise in her face, giving her red spots on her cheeks that stood out against the whiteness of her flesh. She was breathing quickly, nostrils flaring, chest heaving, and I thought I hadn’t seen anything as lovely in a long time.
“Lovely,” I said aloud, involuntarily.
“Yes she is, isn’t she?”
“Prime filly,” I sighed, causing her to grin and wonder if I was talking about her.
After that we kept quiet and watched the show, she trying to memorize certain horses to draw later, then realizing I was getting a ton of photos, so she could work off of that. Neither of us spoke until I suddenly murmured “Nice capriole” near the end of the performances.
She couldn’t help the sigh that escaped her, but that was due more to her acting instinct that anything else. “Stop showing off, you louse. What’s it mean?”
“Upward leap with no forward motion.”
“In that case, yes, very nice.”
Then came the other highlight, when I was really getting involved in the show she was putting on just for me, though there was probably more than a few men in the audience who had their eyes riveted to her rather than the horsies. But on hearing the gasps of the crowd, including hers, and seeing some tiny tears welling up in her eyes, I brought my attention back to the ring, and saw what all the fuss was about. Instantly my camera was against my eye.
For her part, she could not take her eyes away from the tiny colt clip-clopping obediently beside its mother, somehow managing to impart to its audience that it was both curious and yet happy to be here, or to be alive, for that matter. This baby, she instantly decided, had not struggled to stand up when it had been born, like a newborn giraffe, though that was cute in itself; no, this guy had been born graceful, fully prancing just minutes into its life. She couldn’t stop looking any more than she could stop breathing.
“I wonder if the owner of that little guy would like a walk-on role on an American TV series, or if he’d want something more to feel good about giving me that adorable little pony.”
“Gift horse?” I smirked, making her struggle not to giggle and ruin the show, but luckily the little guy had been designed to end things. Smart of them, I thought.

A few minutes later we were back amongst the stalls, with her cooing to each horse she came across. Eventually, as we reached the end of the stalls and she was realizing she was tired, we found ourselves looking at a beautiful palomino who, unfortunately, couldn’t hold a candle of attention to its owner or seller, whoever the ridiculous-looking guy was.
For once when there was a horse around, she could not keep her eyes off the pitchman. She thought that, the way he looked, he belonged in Hollywood–the town, not the state of mind that went with the movie industry. He was only about five-five, with a shock of yellow hair that stood out from his head in random spikes surrounding his round tanned face.
“He looks like a black-eyed Susan,” she whispered, once again showing off her botanical expertise, making me laugh and lose my way in the translation.
Noticing I was too quiet as we moved along, but not about to let me off easy, she made sure there was accusation in her voice as she asked, “What are you thinking of?”
“Trying to remember if any of the Susans I know have black eyes. Do you mean the actual eyes being black, or the punch-in-the-face type?”
“I didn’t name the plant,” she demurred. “And remember what I told you about thinking of other girls. . .”
“That it shows I’m not a stalker?”
“No, after that.”
“Um. You’re no fun.”
“I am too!”
“Show me.”
“Someday,” she chortled, “when there ain’t a Susan in sight!”
And I had to leave it at that. Knowing she would ask again, I thought of something else to be pretending to think about, and had just come up with a doozy when she quickly got sidetracked by, of all things, a clothing store. But of course it had to be horse-related, and once I realized what that meant, I hurried in after her.
But she was already in a makeshift dressing room, next to racks and racks of the tightest jodhpurs I’d ever seen. Just when I got to wondering how secure the place was, and was about to look for tiny security cameras, she came out and, seeing me, preened with a few spins. It was too dark to shoot in there, so I quickly paid for the garment and grabbed the jeans she’d taken off so she’d have to walk in her new oh-so-tight pants.
She caught on to my game, but only smiled and walked out, as well as she could, all things–or thighs–considered. Once out in the sunlight, I let her walk ahead a little, getting plenty of shots of the skin-tightness of the material against her ass. Though I did pause to wonder how she managed not to show any panty lines under. . .
Duh, I laughed to myself. No underwear, of course.
She knew what I was up to, of course; it was exactly what she’d planned when she’d spotted the jodhpurs, a way to reward me. Poor camera’s gonna burn out. . .
Hey, I just realized. . . he grabbed my jeans, but not my undies! Sure, he didn’t know I’d taken them off in the dressing room, but still. . . should I go back and get them? Hopefully they’re not being sniffed by some perv–or on eBay!–already!
Suddenly a very unusual Suthin’ accent–unusual for Spain, anyway–asked her, “Has anyone ever told ya you have a really pretty mouth. . .?”
“Yeah,” I immediately answered, next to her in a second, “but he was a lot prettier than you.”
And that’s why I love him, sigh. . . “Your camera having fun with my new look?”
“If cameras could have erections. . .”
“Ha! Bring out the long lens!”
I almost told her about the shot of me resting at halftime of a soccer game, the 500mm dangling between his legs, but I figured she’d see it soon enough.
“You really like my new pants?” She brought her shoulders closer together, dropping her chin, totally going for the eight-year-old urchin look, really incongruous with her body and the way she was showing it off.
“The only thing tighter than jodhpurs is WET jodhpurs.”
She tried a baleful look, but much to her chagrin she found herself picturing it, wondering when we were gonna shoot at the beach. . .
Stepping around a corner, she found herself in the midst of what looked to be a medieval costume drama, akin to those Renaissance Fairs she’d attended as a kid. There were tents, glowing brightly like they were lit from inside despite the harsh sun, and plenty of cooking pots filling the air with exotic spicy scents, making her mouth water.
“Just your kind of thing, huh?” I laughed as I saw her face.
“I’m so glad we’re here!” she yelped, throwing her arms around me.
Grinning because I knew what was on her mind, even if she’d never admit it, I asked, “Time to grab some lunch?”
She looked genuinely startled. “I’d completely forgotten!”
“Probably how you keep your girlish figure.”
She grinned as she led the way to a more substantial restaurant than what the booths offered. Figuring we’d be back here tomorrow, where she could sample the food to her heart’s content, right now she had to make sure she found a place my picky stomach could tolerate, and she’d spotted one earlier.
Less than five minutes later we were seated, the girl at the door giving her a look of askance at the jodhpurs, then realize only rich women dressed like that. She took our drink orders and handed us menus and then felt somewhat relieved not to have to deal with the odd couple any more, or maybe just the beautiful woman who made her feel like a lesser species of female.


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 2

“Best horses in the entire world! You will never find–”
She had been reading a brochure that told her The horse fair was headlined by the renowned Arabian and Andalusian breeds–the best in Europe, in riding competitions, exhibitions, sales–when, as irony would have it, this first of no-doubt many pitchmen started his spiel on her. She almost told him I was the wallet of the operation, but since I was caught as well, it wouldn’t have helped anyway.
Finally she just took the brochure and smiled falsely, then walked away quickly, hand automatically going out to grab mine; she felt a rush of female endorphins course through her when she realized it, even more so when my hand instinctively clenched around hers.
{How do I know stuff like this? I read her diary, of course. . . and if you tell her I’ll haveta mess you up. . .}
We hadn’t spoken much since I’d told her to drive down Avenida de la Feria, to which she’d replied, “That’s convenient!” showing she’d been practicing her Spanish. Now taking the time to look around, she noticed two different sections to the park, one a small village that seemed to be lined with restaurants and pubs, and the other part full of tiny roller coasters and bumper cars and such, games for the kids that allowed grown-ups to let go a bit as well. . . without getting drunk! she laughed inside.
“This isn’t what I thought at all!” she wondered aloud. “The way you explained it, I thought it was a private horse sale. . . you know, just the rich people and the horse sellers! Yet anyone can come in!”
“Humans are natural showoffs, like peacocks,” I tried, just to see if she’d bite. . . and not bite me, since she was a natural showoff. “They want all the peasants to see their clothes, their horses, their women. But they don’t really want to have to talk to them.”
“Just like Hollywood!” she marveled, though she was acting it up something horrible.
Not quite in horsie mode yet, she carefully took in her surroundings while sucking on one of the many samples she’d been given as we’d walked by. Just the thought of all these little white tents made her ecstatic, hopeful they all had something to sell. That grassy spot she figured had to be a horse exhibition ground, so save the spot for later, and when she spotted railroad tracks she knew it was time to turn back.
“So this reminds me a lot of a country fair,” she grumbled, “though with more horses than usual.”
“No one’s making you get on the roller coaster and such. And enough with the sherry! Let’s just see the horsies.”
“Yeah, where are they?”
“Should be this way. . .”
As always trusting me, she kept quiet, still looking around, hoping for differences that would make her forget the county fair comparison. But finally we arrived at a place that looked like a driveway, albeit a pretty driveway, seemingly one long mosaic.
“Just in time for the horse parade,” I grinned. “Get your camera out, and try not to think of it as shopping.”
“Wouldn’t that be something?” she enthused. “I want to buy a ranch and have all kinds of horses on it! I’d like to see if those from different parts of the world like each other, or if they–”
“Here comes the first.”
Dutifully she brought her arms up to put her little camera in place, then looked down the long walkway, or horseway, and giggled.
To me time seemed to pass ever so slowly, for after a while I got bored looking at horse after horse after horse. The only saving grace was her running commentary, making me wonder when she was going to repeat herself, but so far she hadn’t.
At one point, when a woman in a bright orange flamenco dress passed on the rear seat of an Andalusian–with me maniacally shooting frame after frame–she mentioned how much she’d love to ride in a dress like that, but never sidesaddle.
“You cannot ride like that,” one nearby man grinned. “Riding astride ruins the dress.”
“Phooey on that!” she booed, to the delight of most. “Hey, they get Western horses here too!”
“From the west of Spain?”
“No, dummy, cowboy horsies! Isn’t that a pinto?”
“A paint is a breed; pinto is a color.”
“I see. So–hey, curly horses!”
“Glad to see you keep things. . . ah, never mind.”
Which of course she didn’t. When the parade was finally over, she went to work on what I would usually do, checking the photos on the tiny digital screen; well, I was shooting film, but you get the point. I waited patiently for a while before asking if she’d rather do that in the shade. Instantly she put on her “Oops, excuse me for being a dumb blonde” face and allowed herself to be led away.
Her other tack was changing the subject. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful horses at once,” she pretended to swoon.
“Typical girl.”
“Oh no, I love horses more than any typical girl. . . and don’t you go making something out of that statement, you dirty-minded swine! Contrary to Freudian belief. . .” and she had to stop right there because I was laughing so hard she was afraid I might hurt myself.
It took so long she got bored watching me and went to her favorite time-waster, reading the brochures and various propaganda she’d been handed on their walk. Most of it was in Spanish, of course, but there was enough to tide her over, especially the overdone folds of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, as they called the Riding School. As much as she loved the thought of catching the “dancing stallion” show, she wasn’t buying their claim that they were “comparable” to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which was on her list of things for me to take her to see.
“Oh, I needed that,” I finally sighed, startling her, then making her wonder how long that had taken. Next time she had a laughing jag, she promised, she’d let me make all the fun of her I wanted!
Looking around now, she saw the crush of people was a lot worse than before. So much for the sedate pace all the literature promised! . . . wait, they did add something about except for the festival. Okay, my bad. . .
But it didn’t change the original problem. “We’ll never get through this crush of bodies!” she whispered fiercely. “It’s impossible!”
“Not with that attitude you won’t. The person who claims something is impossible is always right, because she’ll never do it.”
“Not again,” she muttered, then grinned falsely.
“C’mon, I’ll fullback for ya.” I grabbed her arm and pulled her along; only a tiny squeal escaped her this time as she quickly followed to keep her arm attached. “Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent,” I exclaimed, managing to confuse her long enough to get her to follow on instinct without thinking.
By the time we’d made it to the safety of the food and drink portion of the fair, she was out of breath, though that was due more to her laughter. Pressed to the point, she admitted she had no idea why she was giggling so much, but then tried, “I hope you make me call you ‘my little centaur’ the next time we do it!”
“If I don’t, you’ll get your money back.”
“What money?” she almost cried, but instead looked over as another white horse trotted by, carrying a man in the front and a polka-dot-dress-wearing sidesaddle lass behind him. “Tell me about the Andalusians.”
“The people or the horses?”
“The more interesting ones.”
“Ever hear of Medieval Times?”
“Sure! One of the knights gave me his rose.”
“I’ll try not to get jealous. Those white horses are Andalusians.”
“Like these? Awesome!”
“Andalusians love to dance.”
“The people or the horses?” she giggled.
“Both, but in this case I mean the horse. We’ll catch tonight’s show.”
“Really?” she squealed. “Will you then take me to Vienna to compare?”
“Not tomorrow. Hope you have a good memory.”
“I’ll remember,” she murmured in what she hoped was a mysterious tone. “Now I wanna play with horsies!”
“And I wanna watch you play with horsies.”
“That’s the spirit! Let’s go!”
Even though every woman in the place no doubt felt like she did, I knew I’d be able to work something out with a presenter. Usually just the thought of seeing their product with such a beautiful woman, especially if they figured they’d get a publicity-style photo out of it, should be enough. If not, there was always bribes.
Spotting a likely target, albeit not an Andalusian–I’d save that for a better idea, later–I hailed him heartily and began some rapid-fire Spanish negotiation as she smiled brightly and let the horse owner, or whoever he was, look her over.
Snapping out of her model trance as she heard her name being called, she trotted over. I immediately told her the horse was ours for half an hour, provided the guy got a photo of her with it.
“Sounds like a good deal,” she chirruped, wondering if I would give direction or just shoot as she played with the horsie, then figured she’d find out soon enough.
“We play this right, give him a photo he can show tomorrow, we might get to take a horsie on the beach.”
“This one?” she squealed.
“Probably not, he’s hoping to sell it, but we’ll see.”
“Oh, right. Okay, what first?”
Mistaking this request–I’d meant photographically–she giggled and ran over to the side of the enclosure, glad she’d worn sneakers. Not thinking there might be horse doo-doo on the ground until it was far too late, she ran back toward me and did a backflip; the place was probably too dark for me to catch it on film, but at least now I would know what she was capable of. . . outside of bed, for once, giggle.
Having landed adroitly on both feet, panting and laughing at my look of surprise, she turned and finally noticed the horse, which seemed to be looking at her strangely. Cooing, she patted him gently; when she saw that did the trick, she figured it was a male horsie.
And a blonde one, a natural blonde, she now noticed. Unable to resist, she wrapped her arms around his neck and snuggled, thinking how much she would love having an equine so docile it would be her teddy bear.
Quickly moving–or as quickly as I could without spooking the horse–I finally found an angle where I could shoot her hair melding with the horse’s, leading me to instinctively think, Wow, that would look so awesome nude. . .
For her part, she was already in model mode, at least her version of it; her mind had already gone, leaving only a little bit engaged in case I wanted another pose or such, but basically on automatic. Unbeknownst to her, so deep was her trance, a crowd had gathered, surrounding the enclosure as they watched the photo shoot. Anyone watching them instead of her would have noticed the pattern, that moment of startlement on first seeing her, then the losing of all mental power, the mesmerization caused simply by staring at her for about two seconds. Her beauty would not let go, there were so many focal points: high full breasts, slender waist, generous hips, long legs. And none of those curves were in the least hidden by her tight jeans and silk blouse, all of which fit her like a second skin. It made the more fashion-conscious wonder why anyone cared about fancy dresses or lingerie.
Finally–finally!–I told her to get on the horse. Only now did she realize in her conscious mind that it was already saddled, and had been since before she’d gotten close.
The next few minutes were spent with her riding the surprisingly nimble and well-mannered horse around the dark enclosure. When that didn’t work all the well, and having noticed how docile the white horsie was, I somehow got it to stand still, then told her to sit up proudly and pretend she was still riding. . . without bouncing, of course. This she was able to do so well it surprised even me.
Feeling pleased with herself and her costar, she leaned down to pat the horse and plant a kiss on its neck, and as her hair fell down the side of her face, it once again melded with the horse’s, to the point my camera couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began.
This time I said it aloud. “Damn, that would be so beautiful nude!”
She grinned at that, stuck to her tongue just on principle, but let me know she was thinking of that now too.
“I was gonna remind you of your promise to braid your hair for the shoot,” I grinned, “but that was well worth not remembering!”
Looking incredibly playful, she suddenly kicked out of the stirrups, jumped to her knees on the saddle, and yelled, “Let’s see how good your hands are. Catch!”
Without giving me a second to grasp what she meant to do, she leapt off, flinging herself at me. It took me entirely by surprise, and I was only just in time to catch her. As it was, she hit her forehead painfully against my cheekbone, barely missing breaking my nose, and had to save herself by throwing her arms around my neck. Kissing me quickly on both cheeks, she slid to the ground.
The only good thing I saw, besides her not breaking something of mine–including the camera–was the look of utter shock on the face of the horse guy.
“What did he say?” she chortled as we walked off, shoot done.
“Not sure it translates, but basically ‘Damn you and the horse you ran into!’”
It took her over an hour to stop laughing. . .


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams part 1

“So what are we going to see here in Jerez, Mr. Tour Guide?” came the familiar chirp.
“There’s the King of Andalucia’s zoo and botanical gardens, if you’re not sick of flowers yet.”
She looked down at her diary with a smile, but did not open it to gawk at the rose pedals she’d stuffed in it that morning, after a smitten groundskeeper had gifted it to her, against all posted rules.
“And I want to check out the Clock museum, or as they call it, the Palace of Time. Maybe the curator will give you one when he sees you.”
My smirk made her blush, again reminding her of the rose of the morning.
She’d read earlier that Jerez was famous worldwide for its sherry and brandy, which made her wonder why I wanted to come here, until she discovered the town’s other claims to fame were horses and, of course, flamenco.
Once in town we drove around a little, since most of the sights were lighted for the tourists. The Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress from the eleventh century, was nice, she thought, but pretty much an afterthought after days at the Alhambra.
“All the palm trees almost make me homesick,” she laughed.
“For Kansas?”
“No, silly!”
“Maybe we can visit a cattle ranch. Not quite Kansas, but the closest we’ll get.”
She shuddered, deciding against telling me whatever was on her mind,. “Maybe we can go to a horse ranch!”
“All the horsies will be at the shows. . . unless you want to see them breeding, and I recommend you don’t, for my sake.”
“So many places I could go with that,” she sighed, “but for the sake of the future, I shall refrain.”
“Wow. . . next time someone talks about your lack of fortitude, I will definitely have to defend you.”
“That’s all I ask.”
“Damn, you’re easy today.”
Powerfully hungry, she nevertheless couldn’t deny her instincts and stopped at a store that caught her attention while we were on our way to feed. Though it was closed, she forced me to translate all the girly stuff about silk-embroidered linen bedspreads with designs full of exotic flora and fauna, imbued with symbolic significance. “Two birds mean lovers, trees represent families, and so on. They were once woven for every rich girl’s bridal trousseau. . . it actually says it in French, because I have no idea what the hell that means.”
“That’s okay,” she grinned. “I know what it is, that’s what matters.”
“And now you want one.”
“Always did.”
The entire world was grateful the store was closed. . .
Dinner for her was a magnificent feast consisting of conch chowder, lobster, sole fillets simmered in white wine and cream while topped with shrimp, and pineapple spring rolls with rum crème anglaise for dessert; she managed to identify every single morsel for my non-interested gaze. She appeared to be in what passed for hog heaven for her, and I found myself enjoying the sight: watching her pig out, savoring each bite, squeezing out the juices with her cheeks and tongue before chewing and swallowing. She had the most sensual mouth I had ever kissed. . . though my lips wouldn’t be touching hers until after she washed said mouth.
“I didn’t check the name of the restaurant when we came in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was called the Stuffed Pig.”
She glanced an eye at me, but did not let it interrupt her savoring. In fact, she didn’t speak till it was over, and then it was only a sigh of deep satisfaction.
Until her usual after-dessert drink, which made her gag. “Gawd! If this is coffee, bring me some tea!” She looked down into the cup like something in it had bitten her. “On the other hand, if this is tea, bring me some coffee!”
“You are a true actress, stealing lines from Abraham Lincoln. . .”
She glared at me blankly, but the heavenly meal was over and she had to be content with coming back to earth. Blinking her eyes a few times while grinning, she managed to portray this fact to me. “This was the most excellent meal ever!” she sighed. “I’d love to meet the chef!”
So I stopped the waitress on her next pass and asked in Spanish if that was possible. Grinning, and not bothering to go back to ask, she waved us along, and as soon as the swinging door opened she started speaking Spanish so fast I couldn’t follow it.
Right behind the waitress, happy I was along to interpret, she allowed herself to be escorted through the impossibly cramped kitchen to where a bone-thin grandmother wielded a huge knife like an axe into a side of beef; She instantly gulped and tried to take a step back, but I was already occupying that space. Startled by this reaction, the old lady gasped and looked up at us, then realized what the problem was. Wizened and otherwise frail looking, she nevertheless had a smile that flooded us with kindness, and the eyes even flirted. A second later she smiled back, the world once again on its axis like it should be.
But before anyone could say a word, a man came around the corner behind the old woman, scowling as he wiped his hands on a towel. That scowl went away quickly as the waitress told him what was going on, and then he was glad he’d cleaned his hands, for he bent over hers and kissed it, making the actress blush.
The next few minutes consisted of Her heaping praise on the heaps of food she’d ingested and me struggling to come up with translations to words I’d never used much in English, let alone Spanish. When told the man’s son was the junior chef on the weekend, but was taking time off to care for his new baby, the actress looked shocked.
They could see the man preen as they walked away. “Good job,” I grinned. “There’s no place in the universe where it hurts to tell someone how young they look.”
She beamed just as much as the guy had. “In case we ever pass this way again, I want him to remember me.”
“Ha! You didn’t need the compliment for that. He was hooked even before he kissed your hand.”
Her head ducked down instinctively, but I could tell she was grinning.

The next morning she made a hash out of looking around the place, then out the window. “Is the town always so. . . exuberant?”
“Probably for the horse festival.”
“Most likely. So nice of you to come out of your way just for me.”
Sensing she’d made a mistake somewhere, but not able to spot it, she went with the truth, at least one truth inside her head. “Bringing me here instead of wherever you were planning to go.”
I tried to hold back that “you’re being an idiot” smile I’d had to use far too often on this trip, but failed. “As you see, it’s a festival, the kind where every hotel room is sold out months in advance.”
“Not for someone like you!” she tried, knowing it was doomed to failure but liking the alternative even less. “So you had a reservation because you were already coming here?”
“Nothing better than shooting babes on horseback, as you will prove later today.”
If that’s my punishment, I’ll take it! I’m just glad they didn’t make a fuss about your reservation being for one this time!”
I sighed, more dramatically than her usual. “Everything mine is yours, dearest.”
“Mi cosa es su cosa, right?” she giggled.
“My thing is your thing too,” came my answering grin.
She looked downcast, but of course it wouldn’t last, mostly because her coffee arrived. As always experimental when it came to her favorite addiction, she’d ordered a café solo, and now found it to be. . .
“Espresso in a shot glass.” She looked and sounded disappointed, but I was too busy telling the waitress “Todavia no,” because we’d neglected to look at the menu yet. Rectifying that now, we picked them up and instantly saw the shipwreck design on the front of each other’s cardboard food list.
“Did people actually survive ships going down like that?”
“In a storm? Not likely. If they hit a rock or such, they should be close enough to shore to float there. Or, if they’re not eaten by a petulant whale, they might be found years hence, anywhere on the seven seas, a drifting skeleton, yet another mystery of the unfathomable briny deep. . .”
She shuddered and decided to save such questions for when she wasn’t eating. “Nice voiceover,” she couldn’t help but praise, though. Then she settled in to finding something to eat. . . which would have gone well, had she not almost spilled her coffee by placing it on the cutlery.

Now that the tone has been set, we’ll get to the horsies next week.